Over four hundred million M&M's® chocolate candies are produced each day.
The M&M's® chocolate candy is a pellet (small mass) of chocolate encased in a colorful, hard, sugary shell. Some people say that Forrest Mars Sr. (1904–99) got the idea for such a product while in Spain during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). He observed how soldiers kept chocolate candies from melting in their pockets by covering the candy with a sugary coating.
Mars wanted to produce chocolate candies that could be sold year-round, especially in the summer when sales usually went down. He put his chocolate candy inside a candy shell, thereby preventing the chocolate from melting. It could be eaten neatly so that, as the ad says, it "melts in your mouth and not in your hand."
Origin of chocolate
At the heart of every M&M's® candy is its chocolate. Chocolate is made from cacao beans, the seeds of the cacao tree, a native plant of South America's river valleys. After being removed from the pods, the beans are dried in the sun to preserve them. The dried beans are called cocoa beans. During the seventh century, the cacao tree was brought to Mexico, where the drink cacahuatl (a blend of cocoa beans, red pepper, vanilla, and water) became popular.
In 1528, the explorer Hernán Cortés (1485–1547) took the cocoa drink back to Spain, where the recipe was sweetened using sugar and then heated. For nearly a hundred years, Spain kept secret from other countries its chocalatal drink, the ancestor of today's hot chocolate. The Spanish were also the first to eat solid chocolate, although it was nothing like the M&M's® chocolate center. Eventually, in the early 1600s, the sweetened beverage reached Italy. The chocolate drink was introduced to France, following the marriage of the Spanish princess Maria Theresa (1638–1683) to Louis XIV (1638–1715) in 1660. The English started adding milk to the chocolate drink at about 1700. Chocolate candies were also made in Europe in the 1700s, but they were not very popular. The finished products with their crumbly texture did not hold the sugar well. The North American colonists of Dorchester, Massachusetts, first manufactured chocolate in 1765. Their cocoa beans came from the West Indies.
In 1828, Conrad van Houten (1801–1887) developed a method to produce the solid chocolate that is known today. The Dutch chocolate maker invented a screw press for squeezing most of the cocoa butter (chocolate fat) out of roasted cocoa beans. The cocoa beans were then ground (reduced to powder form). The ground cocoa was mixed with just enough cocoa butter to make a paste, which was smoother and easier to blend with sugar to produce solid "eating chocolate." About twenty years later, in 1847, an English company called Fry and Sons introduced the first commercially prepared solid eating chocolate.
In 1876, Swiss candymaker Daniel Peter (1836–1919) added dried milk to sweet chocolate to make milk chocolate. In 1913, another Swiss candy-maker, Jules Schaud, manufactured chocolate shells filled with other sweets. Although solid sweet chocolates had become quite popular, they were still expensive.
THE SECOND "M" IN M&M'S® CANDY
In 1939, Forrest Mars Sr. approached William Murrie, president of Hershey Chocolate Company (now Hershey Foods Corporation) in Hershey, Pennsylvania, to propose a partnership with Murrie's son, Bruce. The business proposal involved the manufacture of the chocolate candies Mars had recently developed. It would be an 80 percent/20 percent partnership, with Mars owning most of the partnership. It is said that the elder Hershey would provide, among other things, the chocolate that was in scarce supply because of World War II (1939–1945). The Hershey company was making chocolate candies for the American soldiers, and the government did not limit its supply. The new product was named M&M's® after Mars and Murrie.
American-made chocolate candies
In the United States, Milton Hershey (1857–1945) used fresh milk to produce chocolate candies in 1904. Using mass production techniques, he was able to sell large quantities of individually wrapped chocolate bars at inexpensive prices.
Forrest Mars Sr. first manufactured M&M's® candies in 1940. During World War II (1939–1945), American soldiers carried cardboard tubes of the chocolate candies for snacks. The candies soon became popular with the public. The brown bags now used to package M&M's® candies were first introduced in 1948. The two lower-case "m's" were printed on the candies starting in 1950. The letters, originally in black, were changed to white and remain this color today.
Since its introduction to consumers, the popularity of M&M's® chocolate candies has grown. Several varieties of M&M's® have been introduced over the years, including peanut (1954), almond (1988), mint (1989), and peanut butter (1990). In 1981, the astronauts of the first space shuttle, Columbia, chose M&M's® candies to be part of their food supply. In 1987, consumer demand brought back red-colored M&M's® candies, which were discontinued in 1976 because of a health concern related to a particular red food coloring. Although the red coloring was never used in M&M's® candies, the company did not want to confuse consumers. In 1995, more than fifty years after M&M's® candies first came to market, Americans voted to add the color blue to the color mix. Green joined the color mix in 1997. The M&M's®/Mars Company claims that combined sales of all varieties of M&M's candies make it the bestselling snack brand in the United States.
M&M's® chocolate candies have two main parts—hardened liquid chocolate and the hard candy shell. Liquid chocolate is a mixture of chocolate liquor, whole milk, cocoa butter, and sugar, among other ingredients. Chocolate liquor is a thick syrup made from cocoa butter and ground, roasted cocoa nibs, the soft meats of the cocoa beans. The second component of an M&M's® chocolate candy is the candy shell made from a mixture of sugar and corn syrup.
The Manufacturing Process
The manufacturing steps that follow are essentially the same for all varieties of M&M's® chocolate candies.
1 The liquid chocolate is poured into tiny round molds to create the chocolate centers of the candy. For M&M's® Peanut Chocolate Candies or Almond Chocolate Candies, the chocolate surrounds a whole peanut or almond. For M&M's® Peanut Butter Chocolate Candies, the peanut butter center is made first and then surrounded by the chocolate.
2 The formed chocolate pellets are "tumbled" to make them smooth and rounded. They are then allowed to harden.
3 After the chocolate pellets have become hard, they are moved by conveyor belt to the coating area, where they go through the process called panning.
4 During panning, the chocolate pellets are rotated in large containers, where they are sprayed with liquid candy made of sugar and corn syrup. The spraying is timed in order to allow each coat to dry. In addition, several coats are applied to ensure an even layer of candy coating.
5 Color is added to a finishing syrup, which is applied as the final coat. The final product is allowed to dry to a hardened shell. Each batch of M&M's® chocolate candies is of a different color.
6 The single-colored batches are mixed to create colorful blends of red, yellow, orange, blue, green, and brown. A special conveyor belt then moves the candies to a machine that stamps the "m" on the shells. Each candy rests in its own shallow hole to keep it in place and is passed under rubber etch rollers that gently print the letter without breaking the candy shell. Over 400 million M&M's® chocolate candies are produced each day.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
1940 —M&M's® Plain Chocolate Candies were produced for U.S. soldiers for snacks. They were introduced to the American public the following year. The name was changed to M&M's® Milk Chocolate Candies in 2000 because the candies were "just too good to be called 'Plain.' "
1954 —M&M's® Peanut Chocolate Candies came in just the color brown when they first hit the market. In 1960, the colors red, yellow, and green were added to the color brown. In 1976, orange was added to the color mix.
1988 —M&M's® Almond Chocolate Candies were made available during the Christmas and Easter seasons. However, they were so popular that they were sold year-round starting in 1992.
1990 —M&M's® Peanut Butter Chocolate Candies became an instant hit after they first appeared. The peanut butter cream center is surrounded with milk chocolate and encased in the familiar colorful sugar shell.
1995 —M&M's® Mini Chocolate Baking Bits are used in every kind of desserts, from cookies to cakes and brownies.
1996 —M&M's® Minis Milk Chocolate Candies are smaller in size than the regular M&M's® candies. They come in colorful reclosable plastic tubes. The M&M's® Mega Tubes were added in 2000.
1997 —M&M's® Colorworks® Milk Chocolate Candies come in 21 different colors, including pink, maroon, black, silver, and gold. Consumers can choose a blend of colors to represent their companies, schools, or special occasions.
1999 —M&M's® Crispy Candies were first sold. Slightly bigger than the regular M&M's® candies, these new additions to the M&M's® family have a crispy rice center surrounded by chocolate and a candy shell.
2001 —M&M's® Dulce de Leche-Caramel Chocolate Candies, patterned after a Latin American favorite, caramelized sweetened condensed milk, features a chocolate and caramel swirl inside the candy shell.
7 A packaging machine weighs the candies, fills each package with the correct number and colors of candies, then heat-seals the package. The colors are distributed based on different proportions. For example, a package of M&M's® Milk Chocolate Candies (referred to as M&M's® Plain Chocolate Candies until the summer of 2000) has 30 percent brown, 20 percent yellow, 20 percent red, 10 percent green, 10 percent orange, and 10 percent blue colors. In comparison, a package of M&M's® Peanut Butter Chocolate Candies has 20 percent each of yellow, red, green, blue, and brown colors.
8 The finished packages are moved along a conveyor belt to a machine that puts together the shipping boxes and fills them with the right number of candy packages. Then, the machine seals the boxes.
Chocolate pieces that are misshapen are removed. However, a candy that is missing the imprinted "m" is not thrown out. Because of very small variations in the shape of the candies, it is not possible for the imprinting process to be perfect.
Future developments in M&M's® Candy are more likely to occur in colors and additions to the basic chocolate centers. In March 2002, Masterfoods USA, a Mars Inc., company and manufacturer of M&M's® Candy, invited people from seventy-five countries to vote for their favorite new M&M's® Candy color. In June 2002, the company started producing purple M&M's® Candy, which won over aqua and pink.
- chocolate liquor:
- A thick syrup made from cocoa butter and ground, roasted cocoa nibs, the soft meats of the cocoa bean. The word liquor here does not refer to an alcoholic beverage.
- cocoa butter:
- Chocolate fat.
- A process by which the chocolate centers are rotated in large containers, where they are sprayed with liquid candy made of sugar and corn syrup to make a hard candy shell.
For More Information
Brenner, Joel G. The Emperors of Chocolate. New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2000.
Corzo, Cynthia. "Hispanic M&Ms to hit 5 markets this month." Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. (July 10, 2001): page K0072.
"About M&M's®." M&M's® Brand.http://www.m-ms.com/us/about/index.jsp (accessed July 22, 2002).
"The History of Chocolate." Chocolate Manufacturers Association.http://candyusa.org/Chocolate/chocolate.shtml (July 22, 2002).
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